One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff!
But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
The way I want to strengthen your hope this morning is not by glossing over how utterly vulnerable we are in our earthly existence, or by deflecting your attention away from the Biblical truth that God’s judgments fall on believer and unbeliever alike – purifying in some cases and punishing in other cases, depending on whether we repent and make Christ our Treasure instead of the idols of this world. I want to stare those realities of vulnerability and judgment square in the face with you and give you real, solid, Biblical hope. Not just hopeful feelings based on naive notions of earthly stability or escape from painful, purifying, disciplinary judgments.
So then, what is this hope and what is the basis for it? I’ll give you my answer, and then show you where I got it from the Word of God.
· Our hope is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not suffering and not even death.
And the two foundations for this hope are the death of Jesus and the sovereignty of God.
· Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ, died and rose again to bear our sins, become our curse, endure our condemnation, remove our guilt, and secure our everlasting joy in the presence of the all-satisfying God.
· And the sovereignty of God over all persons and events guarantees that what Jesus Christ bought for us by his own blood will infallibly become our inheritance.